As fans leave Jack Trice at the end of each football game, a couple hundred students from The Salt Company enter, armed with garbage bags, gloves and the leaf blowers.
The Salt Company, the college ministry of Cornerstone Church, has been keeping Jack Trice clean after home games since 1988, said Troy Nesbitt, Cornerstone’s lead pastor and staff director. Nesbitt served as the director during the first few football games, which the Salt Company cleaned up.
“Iowa State was bringing bands to play concerts at the stadium and were looking for a group to clean up afterward,” Nesbitt said. “[The Salt Company] was suggested, and it worked out great.”
For the upcoming year, The Salt Company has received a contract to clean up Jack Trice Stadium after football games. This is their 24th year of service.
Each game, students meet behind the south end zone scoreboard and divide into teams. One group heads to the suites, one to the bathrooms, while another group cleans the entire seating area by hand before bringing out the leaf blowers to make sure the stadium is clean before heading out into the parking lots. The students clean up an estimated 11 to 13 tons of trash after each game.
Ryan Schneider, sophomore in criminal justice, heard about stadium clean up during one of the first Salt Company services during his freshman year. He signed up but wasn’t sure what to expect.
“It was really dirty work,” Schneider said. “But [at] the end of the day it was a lot of fun, not because of the actual act [of picking up trash] but the joy that comes from the service.”
Just because the students are cleaning doesn’t mean they don’t have fun.
“I was out with a group picking up the parking lot, and we came across this unopened package of Starbursts,” Schneider said. “One of the guys I was with picked it up and started eating them.”
Even though clean-up is a dirty job, Schneider gets joy from helping out.
“I think the reason a lot of students do [stadium clean-up] is because it’s ultimately a way for us to serve God,” Schneider said.
Stan Hayek is a member of The Salt Company staff and team leader of the stadium clean up efforts. Hayek has some fond memories from clean up of his own.
“After we defeated Iowa, Iowa fans just run out of town and leave their tailgating site as it is,” Hayek said. “It’s amazing to see the stuff left behind, from coolers full of food to hubcaps. You name it, chances are we’ve picked it up.”
Mike Andresen, director of the university’s athletics facilities and grounds, meets with Hayek before each game.
“With night games, they could be cleaning up trash until 1 a.m.,” Andresen said. “Their whole effort is truly remarkable.”
Even though he’s no longer team leader, Nesbitt tries to come back and help out at games that might be understaffed, especially games before Thanksgiving break. If extra help is needed, he brings along his wife and children.
“It’s kind of become a family event,” Nesbitt said.
Hayek elaborated on what keeps Salt Company students signing up to help out.
“[The students] don’t make any money from doing this,” Hayek said. “They do it because they love the ministry of The Salt Company, and it’s their way of giving back.”